One of the biggest fallacies underlying time management and organization, however, is that people rarely create the opportunities needed to accomplish the things that matter most to them. Most get bogged down by "to-do" lists that include everything but their priorities.
Understand what time is, and you'll learn to use it more efficiently. How often have you felt as if your life is spiraling out of control?
Helpful: It is to make a list of events that occur regularly in your day. Assign each event a number from one to five that indicates the level of control you have over it--with five representing total control, and one, no control.
Then look at your list and think about how much control you actually have over your life versus how much you actually exert. You may be surprised to learn that you have a lot more control than you think.
Examples: You have absolute control over when you get up...or whether or not you pick up a ringing phone or whether you read every single piece of mail that crosses your desk.
You have less control over traffic during your work commute--but you do have control over how you react to it or the route you take. You can turn off the radio and use the time you spend driving home to think about what you can do when you arrive...or you can become frustrated and angry.
1) Create a prioritized daily task list, not a to-do list. The trouble with to-do lists is that they tend to be maintenance records. They are lists of items that have to be accomplished just to keep our heads above water, compared to the highest priorities in our lives.
Alternatively, a prioritized daily task list includes both maintenance items and things that are important to our sense of well-being and self-esteem. Ten minutes of daily planning can save more than three hours a week.
2) Be very specific. "20 minutes on exercise bike" versus "exercise 20 minutes." When you're satisfied that you've listed everything, assign a value to each item on the list. A represents tasks that absolutely must be completed. B are those tasks that are important and should be done. C is for any task that is relatively trivial and can be done after all the A's and B's are accomplished.
Prioritize each item by assigning a number to it--such as A1, A2, B1, B2 etc.
Next: Quickly review the appointments on your calendar, and see how much time is left over for other tasks. It's okay to carry over the B's and C's to the next day.
3) Make the distinction between urgent and vital. Unexpected interruptions are common. What is unusual, however, is the amount of time you take to stop to consider whether it's worth interrupting a prioritized task at hand.
Example: Ask yourself how often you spend time in one-on-one conversation with your spouse. The national average is only 27 minutes per week.
The reason is that while it is vital for you to spend time in conversation, it isn't urgent, simply because you assume that your spouse will always be there.
Evaluate events as they present themselves, and determine how they will affect your prioritized daily task list, and if they are really "vital" to your well-being, career or family life. If you need to say no, do so.
4) Get rid of clutter. Whether it's at home or in the office, clutter is one of the biggest causes of procrastination. And that, in turn, is one of the most common, self-inflicted robbers of time.
Example: If you're in the midst of a project and you see an article waiting to be read on your desk, don't reach for it. By taking the focus off the task currently at hand, you've wasted valuable time and it may take longer to regain your focus.
Better: Sort your reading into three parts, A, B, C. Proceed when reading fits into your schedule.
5) Maintain a Master Task List. This list that reminds you of lower-value tasks that you would like to accomplish in any given month.